Fresh start for familiar foe Division III: Washington College attackman John Fuller isn't dwelling on the Shoremen's championship losses the last two seasons to Nazareth. Sunday, the opponents meet again for this year's championship.

May 22, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

John Fuller and Washington College have watched NCAA Division III lacrosse supremacy barely elude their grasp the past two years.

Two overtime losses to Nazareth (N.Y.) College in the championship game at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium tell the tale for the Shoremen.

But Fuller, a junior attackman from Boys' Latin, has remained undaunted by the 11-10 and 15-14 setbacks to Nazareth and has come back this season to play inspired lacrosse in spite of a lingering ankle sprain.

Fuller has literally limped toward the goal to score on several occasions this season, carrying the Shoremen (13-4) to a third straight NCAA Division III championship showdown with Nazareth (13-2) Sunday at Rutgers Stadium at 1 p.m.

"John Fuller is one of the toughest players I've ever seen," said Washington College coach John Haus. "He's really excited about this game. And the good thing is he is close to 100 percent on that ankle now."

Fuller has not only put aside the two title-game losses to Nazareth, but he also doesn't dwell on two Boys' Latin setbacks to Gilman in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship games.

No one wants to be 0-for-4 in the big games.

"I've still had a great lacrosse career being in four championship games," he said. "Those four losses all seem like a long time ago to me. Nothing that happened in the previous championship games with Nazareth will have any bearing on this year's game. It's a different game, a whole new year. We just have to control the ball, slow the pace down and play outstanding defense."

Fuller's stats (32 goals, four assists) are down a little this season due to the bad ankle, but he is still second on the team in goals and third in points.

He was a first-team Division III All-American last season as a sophomore with 42 goals and seven assists, and began his career in Chestertown with 41 goals and 12 assists as a freshman.

"John's been a big scorer since the first day he got here," Haus said. "He's just a heck of a player inside, and he's been a target for us. We get the ball to him a lot."

As Fuller has gone, so have the Shoremen, who have put together 13-5, 14-4 and 13-4 seasons, after a 6-8 record the year before the 5-foot-11, 195-pound attackman arrived.

He has scored a total of four goals in the two championship games against Nazareth, and last week he had two goals in a 12-10 victory over Eastern Shore rival Salisbury State that put the Shoremen in Sunday's showdown.

"We're real psyched for Nazareth, and we're getting better every game," Fuller said of the Shoremen, who have won five straight since a 14-11 loss to Salisbury in the regular season.

"Coach Haus has done a great job of discipline on us," he said. "At a certain point around the middle of the season, he started working us harder and drilling us more. Now, it's all come together. We played a great game last week against Salisbury."

Fuller and senior attackman Andy Lopatin have excelled on the crease most of the season, gathering up loose balls and scoring in bunches.

Lopatin leads in scoring with 36 goals and 14 assists and gives opponents a different look as a left-handed shooter.

"I made a mistake with Andy early in the season," Haus said. "I had him carrying the ball too much. He is much better and more effective off the ball. He just has a knack for retrieving the ball and scoring."

There is some talk at Washington College that Haus might be headed to a Division I coaching job next season if the Shoremen win the national championship.

He has guided the school to a 46-21 record in four seasons.

"I'd rather not talk about that," said Haus, a two-time All-American as a player at North Carolina. "I just want something great to happen Sunday."

Pub Date: 5/22/98

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